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Desert Diary
Ecology/River Water


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As cities in the northern Chihuahuan Desert deplete local, fresh, ground water supplies left over from the geologic past, other sources of the life-preserving fluid must be exploited. For centers such as Las Cruces, El Paso, and Juárez, one choice has to be the Rio Grande. Indeed, a large proportion of the water currently used in El Paso is from the river.

Some people, however, still find it difficult to realize that events happening hundreds of miles away can have heavy local impact. It's true that our region is enduring several years of drought--but the water crisis looming before us is not due to local dryness, but to failure of the snow pack in the Southern Rockies, several hundred miles to our north. Rainfall within the boundaries of our desert is only a minor contribution to the river's flow, almost all coming from snow in the high mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. It's somehow sobering to realize that our fate rests on happenings in a far off land that many of us have never even seen.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.